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The Bird's Nest

3.72  ·  Rating Details  ·  880 Ratings  ·  107 Reviews
Elizabeth is a demure twenty-three-year-old wiling her life away at a dull museum job, living with her neurotic aunt, and subsisting off her dead mother’s inheritance. When Elizabeth begins to suffer terrible migraines and backaches, her aunt takes her to the doctor, then to a psychiatrist. But slowly, and with Jackson’s characteristic chill, we learn that Elizabeth is not ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 250 pages
Published 1969 by Ace Books (first published 1954)
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Nandakishore Varma
“Elizabeth, Beth, Betsy, and Bess, they all went together to find a bird's nest...”

(Image - image by Dreimond)

Elizabeth Richmond is a troubled young woman. Ostensibly a quiet, plain orphan girl employed in an uninteresting job in a museum, she's anything but the exterior she poses to the world - because inside, Elizabeth is really four people. The quiet and mousy Elizabeth, the extremely sensitive Beth, the wickedly naughty Betsy, and the juvenile and anti-social Bes
Nov 04, 2014 Susan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having loved, “The Haunting of Hill House,” and “We Have Always Lived in the Castle,” I was looking forward to reading more by Shirley Jackson. Published in 1954, this is Jackson’s third novel and already has several themes which recur in later books. The main character, Elizabeth Richmond, is a withdrawn and isolated young woman who acts much younger than her actual age. When we meet her, she lives with her Aunt Morgen and working in the clerical department of a museum. She hardly seems to be n ...more
Aug 15, 2013 Shaun rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars

I think that this was one of Jackson's most commercially successful novels, and while in many ways it reads like vintage Jackson, it has a slightly different feel than We Have Always Lived in the Castle and The Haunting of Hill House, two of my favorites.

In The Bird's Nest, Shirley Jackson once again taps into the complicated psyche of her characters and ultimately her readers with the story of Elizabeth Richmond, a young women suffering from multiple personalities.

This once popular
Feb 01, 2016 Tez rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think the correct term nowadays is Dissociative Identity Disorder, but this book is from the '50s (I think) so Elizabeth's condition is called something else. I can't vouch for how accurate a portrayal it is. It kept me turning the pages, and I was expecting Morgen...I don't know if she was a jealous sister, a fed-up guardian, or something else entirely, but she got rather verbose with long rants in the latter half of the book.
Originally published in 1954, The Bird’s Nest is Shirley Jackson’s well-regarded tale of a young woman suffering from multiple personality disorder. There are four separate personalities within this girl (referred to by her treating physician as “Miss R."): timid, colorless Elizabeth, cloyingly sweet Beth, hyperactive prankster Betsy, and venal, greedy Bess. The novel describes Elizabeth/Beth/Betsy/Bess’s initial unraveling, eventual diagnosis, and the efforts of a Dr. Wright (with the help of M ...more
Nov 15, 2009 Emily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, mystery
I just finished this book after starting it two days ago. I must say, after reading it, my brain is exhausted. However, the exhaustion is not to be confused with dislike for The Bird's Nest. I enjoyed it very much. It's just a lot to take in--hard to follow if you will. It all comes together as the book progresses, but for a majority of the reading, the reader is left confused and inquiring about what is being said or what has happened. Though that is the point, I'd imagine.

The book is about a w
Kressel Housman
Dec 26, 2013 Kressel Housman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, psychology
When I picked this up, the only work I'd ever read by Shirley Jackson was "The Lottery," which was required reading in my 9th grade English class. I imagined her full-length novel would be similar, a grabby read with a disturbing surprise ending, and I was right.

Okay, I'll qualify that. The first few paragraphs were so dull and wordy, I almost gave the book up right then and there. They describe a museum, which is the workplace of the protagonist, though you're not told that right away. This des
Sep 26, 2012 noelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, thrifted-or-used
i was kind of worried after i read hangsaman that there was a reason early shirley jackson novels were out of print but no, this is great. i love the way shirley jackson writes mentally ill women, although i was a bit worried this one would be problematic considering the disagreements over MPD/DID. idk, i guess it's a bit dated but i liked it a lot and now more than ever i am excited to read judy oppenheimer's bio of ms jackson.

also, i scored this for $2.75 from better world books' last sale. u
Liina Bachmann
Jun 17, 2016 Liina Bachmann rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
I have a classic "I ate dessert first" case with Shirley Jackson. The first book that I read from her was "We have always lived in the castle" which blew me away. And I have been hoping for something similar with each of her other novels that I have read. The short story collection from the Penguin Classics series was the closest I got to that. "Hangsaman" I liked quite a lot as well. "The Haunting of Hill House" was relevant as a benchmark in its own genre.

But "The Bird's Nest"? A looney book,
Robyn Gail
Jun 17, 2015 Robyn Gail rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stas
Sep 09, 2013 Christopher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Poor Elizabeth Richmond. Poor Beth Richmond. Poor Betsy Richmond. Poor Bess Richmond.

Who are all there poor people, you may ask? Actually, it's just one person. We can collectively refer to this person by her "pre-fracture" name, Elizabeth. She's a shy girl of twenty-three who, like all of Shirley Jackson's heroines, acts much younger than her age. At some point in her past, she suffered a terrible trauma and, employing a very unhealthy coping mechanism, fractured her own personality into four
May 16, 2010 Ab rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book ... Shirley Jackson rocks my world, for real.

If you know me, you know I'm a sucker for an awesome description, so in keeping with that, here are some I've found in this book so far:

p.24 "The whole room partook somehow of the smooth hills & sunsets; the chair in which Elizabeth sat was soft & deep & upholstered in a kind of cloudy orange, her feet lay on a carpet in which a scarlet key design ran in & out & around a geometric floral affair in green & brown, &a
Jan 21, 2016 gianluca rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Libro densissimo, cupo, scritto magistralmente. Ti inchioda alle pagine una dopo l'altra. I capitoli del Dottor Wright sono pazzeschi: un uso dell'aggetivazione e delle metafore veramente affascinante e forte. (Quando mi piace un libro non so non riportare commenti patetici e questo mi è piaciuto parecchio).
4,5 stars! I really enjoyed this book. The beginning of the novel was very intriguing. I liked the first half of the book a lot more that the last part, though. The last part was very strange at times and the suspense level dropped a bit, but I was quite satisfied with the ending. Shirley Jackson's writing was (as usual) amazing and I really recommend this book to everyone. It deserves more attention.
Stephen Curran
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Il sempre limitante sistema delle stelline stavolta, per me, è davvero inutilizzabile, non potrei essere obiettiva. Questo libro, infatti, è un libro magistrale, ben scritto, ben costruito, eppure sono rimasta con un po' d'amaro in bocca. Ho letto troppo di recente "L'incubo di Hill House" e "Abbiamo sempre vissuto nel castello" per non aspettarmi dalla Jackson qualcosa di sconvolgente, che mi incolli alle pagine e mi scavi dentro. Ho trovato la storia più blanda, rispetto agli altri due è stato ...more
Feb 11, 2016 Juliana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I wrote about this book here:
Lauren (galacticake)

I'm beginning to think that maybe, good novels about multiple personality disorder are just doomed to have unsatisfying endings. This is because each separate identity within the person eventually becomes a character in themselves- someone with separate needs, mannerisms, and even memories, all sharing a body. Eventually, each shattered fragment of identity becomes a 'character' that you can sympathize with.

But then what happens? The 'good' ending of a novel about someone with multiple personali
May 15, 2014 Bert rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I thought this started so well, Elizabeth works in a leaning museum with a hole through it, she starts receiving these sinister notes 'i hate you dirty lizzie...' and her aunt keep accusing of her sneaking out in the middle of the night. I'll take a bushel of that. It builds up this surreal and disturbing tension until the doctor steps in...and god is he ever a pretentious douche. It all gets a bit flabby in the midriff, and the doctor's narratives annoyed me. I loved The Haunting of Hill House, ...more
Mississippi Library Commission
This book tells the story of a girl in the middle of dealing with a multiple personality disorder, now better known as dissociative identity disorder. The dialogue and conflict between her personalities is at times both frightening and comical. Shirley Jackson is so good at this kind of dark humor.
Jan 24, 2015 Justin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror, classics
Jackson's third novel deals with 23 year old Elizabeth Richmond, quiet and friendless, and seemingly younger than her age as many of Jackson's protagonists, and her Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly Multiple Personality Disorder). Jackson begins with her great prose in describing the museum where Elizabeth works a dull job to mirror her internal state. The mystery and suspense builds when Elizabeth's monotonous life hints something wrong when she suffers from headaches and lapses in consc ...more
V. Briceland
Feb 03, 2014 V. Briceland rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a cartographer of dark landscapes, Shirley Jackson is well known. Her novels The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle are masterpieces not only of spooky-house writing, but of the psychological specters that torment the living. Her ubiquitous short story "The Lottery" upset its original readers with reason, as it good-naturedly pulled back the skin of small-town life and revealed the skeleton of savagery beneath.

Where modern readers sell Jackson short, however, is in
Nov 09, 2011 Venessa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jackson's third novel and another triumph. Elizabeth, or Beth, or Betsy, or .... Bess is a troubled girl living with her Aunt, and working in a museum. When she begins suffering black outs, her Aunt becomes concerned, but only brings her to a doctor once she embarrasses them in the home of her old friends. At a time when multiple personality disorder was just emerging in the world of psychiatry, Elizabeth is a novelty, and her loathsome psychiatrist doesn't really know how to treat her case, in ...more
Sep 28, 2014 Diletta rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
econdo me pecca un po' stavolta. Un pochino troppo pedante e assillante sul fronte di volerci spiegare e spiegare. Avevo apprezzato tantissimo Hill House proprio perché così inquietante in una maniera subdola. L'aspetto psicologico della vicenda stavolta è troppo sviscerato. Ho pensato che forse la cara Shirley si è voluta fare un po' beffe della psichiatria, però in realtà credo che l'abbia fatto con il suo solito intento crudele. Esagerando però.
Comunque sia niente da dire, esageratamente ben
May 05, 2016 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Except for 'The Lottery', I suppose, I was probably more intrigued by this work of Jackson's than by what I'd read of hers in the past - things like 'The Haunting of Hill House' and 'We Have Always Lived in the Castle'. Maybe that's because I'll take human nature over the macabre - if I have to choose a preference.

The film version of this book - Hugo Haas' 'Lizzie', with Eleanor Parker - was released the same year as 'The Three Faces of Eve'. I've always thought 'Lizzie' was the more convincing
Tasha Robinson
On a bit of a Shirley Jackson kick lately. This book is written in sections from different points of view, first a woman living an ordinary life but suffering from headaches, then the psychiatrist who treats her, then a crazed alternate personality that overtakes her, and so forth. And I really loved some of those sections, particularly the alternate-personality chapter, where it's clear to the reader just how erratically the character is acting, even though it isn't clear to her. It's deeply ar ...more
Oct 01, 2014 Kylie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another excellent Shirley Jackson read, this time exploring the world of multiple personality disorder.

Elizabeth is a very naive, young adult who lives with her aunt. Her mother has passed away some years before the novel begins, and her father some years before that. At first, you don't realise what is happening with Elizabeth, as she has migraines and seems to lose parts of the day. You see the reactions from the Aunt, who is at a loss to explain what is going on, and eventually Elizabeth goe
Jul 08, 2014 meeners rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
She was for the first time in the indifferent hands of strangers, entrusting her person to the tenderness of the bus driver, her name to the woman napping in the seat far ahead; she was going to spend the rest of her life in a room belonging to someone else and she would eat at a stranger's table and walk streets she did not recognize under a sun she had never seen, waking, before. Soon no one would even know her face . . . from this moment on no eyes which looked upon her would ever have seen h ...more
Marta R
Feb 23, 2016 Marta R rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Non è dimostrato che il suo equilibrio personale venisse alterato dalla pendenza del pavimento, né si poté dimostrare che fosse stata lei a svellere il palazzo dalle fondamenta; è innegabile tuttavia che l'uno e l'altro cominciarono a smottare all'incirca nello stesso periodo."

Trascinante, una lettura che lascia boccheggianti perché non si può far altro che divorarla (strano termine da usare proprio qui) una pagina dopo l'altra.
Il ritmo è incalzante, gli occhi corrono una riga dopo l'altra inse
Dan Hiland
Mar 04, 2015 Dan Hiland rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Though not of the same caliber as "The Haunting of Hill House", "The Bird's Nest" is a book well worth reading. Containing most of Jackson's hallmark touches- isolation, brooding and sinister surroundings, dark humor, realistic and ambivalent dialogue- it describes the disintegration of a young woman's personality. Step by step we watch as Elizabeth recedes from the normal to a hidden world where- after a period of disassociation- first one, then two, then more separate and distinct personalitie ...more
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Shirley Jackson was an influential American author. A popular writer in her time, her work has received increasing attention from literary critics in recent years. She has influenced such writers as Stephen King, Nigel Kneale, and Richard Matheson.

She is best known for her dystopian short story, "The Lottery" (1948), which suggests there is a deeply unsettling underside to bucolic, smalltown Ameri
More about Shirley Jackson...

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“Elizabeth, Beth, Betsy, and Bess, they all went together to find a bird's nest...” 8 likes
“It is not proven that Elizabeth's person equilibrium was set off balance by the slant of the office floor, nor could it be proven that it was Elizabeth who pushed the building off its foundations, but it is undeniable that they began to slip at about the same time.” 5 likes
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